Need a reason to work out? Here are 7 to start and there are much more.
What if you could be thinner, healthier and live a longer life? Sound too good to be true? According to research, and my experience, exercise is the solution for a better quality of life.
Physical activity is an essential part of any weight-loss program, to maximize your fat loss while keeping valuable muscle mass. But exercise has many other health and longevity benefits. It can help prevent or improve these conditions:
Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers blood pressure; increases “good” cholesterol (HDLs) and lowers “bad” cholesterol (LDLs); enhances blood flow, and helps your heart function more efficiently. All of these benefits reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
In an analysis of 23 studies, researchers found that being active reduces your risk of having, and dying from, a stroke. According to a study published in the journal Stroke, moderately active study participants had 20% less risk of stroke than less active participants.
Type II Diabetes
This disease is increasing at alarming rates — by 62% since 1990 — and 17 million Americans now have it. Physical activity can enhance weight loss and help prevent and/or control this condition. Losing weight can increase insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure — all of which are very important to the health of people with diabetes.
Overweight and obese conditions can be prevented or treated with exercise, along with a healthy diet. Activity helps to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass, thus improving your body’s ability to burn calories. The combination of reduced calories and daily exercise is what’s needed for weight loss. Controlling obesity is critical, as it is a major risk factor for many diseases.
Back pain can be managed or prevented with a fitness program that includes muscle strengthening and flexibility. Having good posture and a strong abdomen (core) is the body’s best defense against back pain. Water fitness classes are extremely good for this type of pain.
Weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing or lifting weights) strengthens bone formation and helps prevent osteoporosis or bone loss often seen in women after menopause. Combine a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D with regular weight-bearing exercise for maximum results.
Improved self-esteem is one of the top benefits of regular physical activity. While exercising, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. The feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric” and is accompanied by an energizing outlook. Exercise can help you cope with stress and ward off depression and anxiety.
And these are just a few of the ways exercise improves your health. Studies have suggested it can also help with certain types of cancer, improve immune function and more.
Putting It All Together: Exercise and a Healthy Diet
Exercise alone produces modest weight loss; when combined with a reduced-calorie diet, the effects are much more impressive. Researchers found that people who exercised regularly and ate a healthy, modest-calorie diet lost weight and improved cardio-respiratory fitness regardless of the length or intensity of their workouts.
It is never too late to reap the benefits of physical activity. Sedentary women 65 years and older who began walking a mile a day cut their rates of death from all causes by 50%.
As a personal trainer, I recommend a combination of aerobic exercise (the type that makes you breathe harder, like walking or jogging) for cardiovascular conditioning, and strength training (like lifting weights or calisthenics) for muscle toning, and stretching to improve your range of motion. Strive for doing all three types, but remember that any exercise is better than nothing.